The Good Place
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A heist? More like robbing you in front of your eyes. And by you, I mean you. Reading this.
The director Steven Soderberg is famous for sugar coating a bitter script into a magical bean. That's sort of his resume. He directs. And just as some famous directors (only directors) he relies, obviously, a lot on the writer. Unfortunately, tonight's not the night for Soderberg. That is not an excuse or defend for the director. I am not lawyer-ing for him, since he chose to work on the script with a big star in his pockets. I am defending him for I am with him, completely on his work. Usually while reading a script, something clicks and you see those words in a certain way. Hopefully, no one has ever seen.
Now you want to put your personal spin on that storyline and characters that will hook the audience lickety split. And if I was in his seat, I would too struggle a lot to hone this based-on-real-events crisis. But then maybe that's why he is Soderberg and I am.. Anyhoo, this brings back to where we started. The film doesn't stay true to anything. It never reaches the "Oh! This is that kind of a film" moment. And when it does and it does, late, right before the last act. It is clearly too late.
Despite well edited so called "small talks" and hilarious scenarios, the film doesn't capture the humor as it needed to. It is referred to, as being a wannabe Adam McKay's The Big Short, but it actually isn't. McKay's bibliography might as well be thrown out since it's not going to be useful for anyone but him. His unique touch is not Midas but a McKay's touch. The gold that Soderberg digs here had a wrong map, motivation and might I dare, even the hosts. And I mean, every actor present in The Laundromat.
You can go ahead and paste his name at the top of the list. The list of the best filmmaker never needed any update.
Charlie Chaplin is in his prime stage now. Now as in then when the film came out. And prime stage as in both, his narrative skills and performance. Today we're not going to boast about the social and political satire and other changes that the film deals with. But the body language that takes place in this film. The importance of this universal language is something we all know and understand. And here it spews wonder like some winning rap in a rap battle does. And I don't mean the obvious visual galore that is captured by camera tricks to serve the humor and wow factor. But I am talking about just Charlie's control over his body.
He is insanely in command of his body. There is not a fumble, not a trip, not a wave that is accidental. Even when he is.. nay, especially when he is out of control, he is still dancing the dance of his life. And I say that for the images that he could not be in charge of. As in, he doesn't just do his stunts or whatever you may like to call it, only once but does it frequently, does it fast, does it smooth.
Except for that dive in the shallow water, he is giving meticulous set pieces that are emotionally motivated, continuously. Now, coming back to the theme of Modern Times. I don't want to use the term ahead of its time, but it is. And its maturity and philosophy is why it remains to be one of my favourite Charlie Chaplin adventures. The love story looks like an excuse, just as it should be. The sacrificial act isn't actually sacrificial. To me, it was a proposal. A proposal to be a friend. A good hard working friend.
Day and night. Day and night. This is how the film travels making sure that both of them are present at once.
Charlie Chaplin's boxing match is not a serious match. I know that's obvious. But it is not. Not expected. At the back your thoughts, you are always waiting to get things serious. Gritty. Bloody. Brutal. Intense. And it is these films that makes us expect these things from a genre as such. Not even touching the Rocky milestone, I am just playing around Raging Bull by Martin Scorsese and Battling Butler by Michel Keaton- someone from Charlie's days itself. They've all tried to plaster the sincerity of that job on screen. You can joke around, fool around as much as you like but that sport is respected with a jarring punch when the time comes.
Not to say that Charlie doesn't respect it. His method of living up to that "dutiful" objective is somewhat different. Nay, not different. Mature. Ahead of time. He doesn't pay homage to those heavy lifters by putting them in the ring, but does it so elegantly in the dressing room. From hard work to the stakes that are played every night on the screen, everything is mocked or more accurately notified in Charlie's dictionary. There is a sense of pride in carrying that note.
And maybe that is why he has crafted such an empathetic and a low key character in the rest of the screen time. He is wreck but an adoptable one. Another thing that makes this film incredibly different than the others is the jokes. All the jokes are an elaborative comic sketches that takes energy along with time for it to work, from you. And then there is the end of the tunnel in the City Lights. A purely unconditional and innocent act that penetrates your emotion as that good old symbol of love arrow does. The birds fly and sing by merrily.
Who'd have thought that the background score would be the actual hero. I love the entire look of it.
M. Night Shyamalan, the writer and director's film is a joy to behold. Filmed through a documentary lens, Shyamalan's to-the-point direction is actually beneficial this time. Some would and does argue to those plot points that grows loud and cheesy which weighs down the film to ever soar perpetually. And yes, there are those moments in the film that comes easily and repetitively. But what Shyamalan does so brilliantly is that he frames it as the part of a "cinematic experience". There is a film within the film that is every now and then mentioned to keep the viewers alive and confident.
And mind you there is no one as confident as Shyamalan on convincing you to be confident yourself. Just watch the last act of Glass enfolding before your eyes. Any other filmmaker would flinch on taking away the heat from their own script by basically showcasing the "awkwardness" of a film shoot in the film. Somehow he frames that as a narrative now whether it works or not that's a different day, but it definitely is a bold and confident choice.
Now coming back to those textbook set pieces. There isn't actual ever a note that gives away the fact that he isn't aware of his viewers' expectations. He knows you are in a Shyamalan world. He built it. The reputation and the films. Hence, he frames it as an expected destination. You know that they are going to wait for the arrival of that know station. The Visit is that visit for me. And you know what, you know a film is working when you are so immersed in whatever images shown in front of us, that you forget where you're headed. And on that note it is also a wrong knock on the door.